Writing in the Major
The English department is strongly committed to developing students’ writing abilities and improving student learning through writing in both general education and discipline-specific courses. The English major, regardless of emphasis, is designed to promote among students the
- ability to write clearly and gracefully in a variety of genres, for a variety of purposes and audiences.
Most department learning goals involve the production and critique of written texts and thus student writing is assessed on a regular basis. It is perhaps not surprising that instructors incorporate writing assignments into their courses because English as a discipline has long been dedicated to writing. Given our academic and professional experience with the history, theory, and ever-evolving best practices in writing instruction and given how closely we assess student writing, it is clear that we view writing as integral to our work in the discipline.
The Writing Emphasis Requirement
As part of their General Education Program, all students at the university must complete two writing emphasis courses at the 200 level or above, one of which must be at the 300-level or above. One course must be in the major (not core). Writing emphasis courses are specially designated courses taught by certified instructors. These courses integrate informal and formal writing assignments, approximately 50 pages total, as a way to achieve course goals.
English majors satisfy the writing emphasis requirement by completing courses in the major because the English is approved as a "writing in the major" program. Although English majors are not required to take writing emphasis courses, they may elect to do so. (English minors and other students who take English courses may need to earn writing emphasis credit, depending on their majors.) See below for more information about how writing is integrated into each of the English majors.
Writing in the English Education Major
The STEP professional core coursework provides numerous opportunities for the integration of formal writing assignments. These assignments are strategically designed to provide teacher candidates with the opportunity to use formal writing as a mechanism for communicating both in an academic and professional venue. As such teacher candidates will develop an understanding of the form and function of writing conventions specific to the education profession in order to actively participant in the discourse community.
Students in the STEP Program should be proficient in each of the three categories of writing (Professional Academic Writing, Professional Communication Writing, and Writing for Professional Practice) and be able to adapt their writing when shifting between categories. Students in the STEP Program are expected to critically reflect, to synthesize ideas, and to communicate their understanding to a variety of audiences while using the languages of their educational profession and their content area discipline. Students should understand that writing is a process involving drafting and revision. After graduation, they should be able to write in a manner which enables them to represent and to advocate for their profession.
Writing in the Literature Emphasis Major
Through numerous formal and informal writing requirements, students in the Literature Emphasis gain writing skills and practice in their creative use of language by engaging in literary scholarship and by exposure to critical approaches to textual and cultural studies. Depending on the details of their chosen courses, they may be required to write in a variety of genres including but not limited to editorials, reviews, scholarly essays for a variety of audiences, including their peers, professors, or the general public. Some have gone on to publish in journals such as the UWL Journal of Undergraduate Research, as well as present their work at academic conferences.
Writing in the Rhetoric and Writing Emphasis Major
Students enrolled in the Rhetoric & Writing Emphasis critique and practice writing in four, overlapping categories as they work through the program:
Disciplinary Research & Scholarship. The goal of these assignments is to familiarize students with the approaches and values of researchers and thinkers in the field of rhetoric and writing studies (as well as related fields). Students are asked to engage in and make contributions to disciplinary conversations, learning the conventions of particular academic discourse communities as they investigate and develop expertise on key theories and concepts in the discipline. The following genres are included under this heading:
- Research Project
- Academic Essay
- Literature Review
Creative Writing. The main purpose of these assignments is to develop students’ abilities to compose a range of original creative works for specific audiences as they work through an exhaustive composing process, one involving the generation of original content, the practice of revision, and the development of publication-quality manuscripts. Student writers also engage with a community of writers and readers on and off campus. Below are some examples of genres in this category:
- Personal Essay
- Creative Nonfiction (Memoir, etc.)
Professional Writing. These assignments ask students to critique and produce texts that circulate or are intended to circulate in a variety of professional, organizational, and workplace settings. Students analyze and negotiate multiple purposes and audiences as they critique the ethical and political dimensions of professional and organizational communications. Examples include the following:
- Business Reports
- Multimodal Projects
Journalism. Journalistic writing assignments involve communicating with public and civic audiences, not only through newspapers and magazines but also through new media and social networking. By investigating print and digital publication venues, students develop an understanding of audience demographics and contexts which are particular to the journalistic styles and formats. Examples are diverse but include
- Feature Articles